Arizona Scientists Create ‘Malaria-Proof’ Mosquito

July 19th, 2010 - 7:51 pm ICT by Pen Men At Work  

July 19, 2010 (Pen Men at Work): Reports from all over the world have placed the estimated death of human beings due to malaria at one million. The parasite causing malaria gets to infect the human body after it is transmitted through the mosquito. The only ways to get rid of such infections is to either kill the mosquitoes or use drugs to eliminate the parasite from the blood of those already infected.

However, these methods are not very effective as the insect as well as the malarial parasite have evolved with the newer strains being resistant to the pesticides and the drugs respectively.

Scientists have been engaged in finding out a more viable solution to the problem for years now. Their efforts have been concentrated in trying to alter the genes of the mosquito. The new mosquito would then be unable to transmit the parasite. However, the results have not been satisfactory so far.

A story from the journal of the ‘Public Library of Science Pathogens’ say that the entomology department of the University of Arizona, headed by professor Michael Riehle and his team has been successful in developing a mosquito that is completely immune to Plasmodium falciparum, the main parasite responsible for spreading malaria. The team now hopes to incorporate the results in finding out new ways of controlling the disease.

The scientific team had hoped to shorten the life span of a mosquito which would make an appreciable impact on the parasitic infection as well. Riehle reported that he had been pleasantly surprised to find that the parasitic infection was completely blocked off by triggering the mosquitoes to express the active protein ‘Akt’ in higher quantities. The transgenic mosquito had a shorter life span and inhibited the infection by the malarial parasite totally.

Michael Riehle now hopes to find out how the parasites are being killed in the new genetically altered mosquitoes. Knowledge of the entire procedure would certainly go a long way in eradicating the disease from the malaria endemic areas, he added.

However, the transgenic mosquitoes would have to be set free and would have to outbreed the natural mosquitoes in order to bring the risk of malaria down. Riehle hopes that the endeavor will become successful in the future. Until then, his malaria resistant mosquitoes continue to thrive within the closed confines of his laboratory.

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